The injury curse is muddying the selection waters for Blue Bulls coach Nollis Marais, with Ulrich Beyers returning from action in France and Italy in a reshuffled backline announced on Wednesday for Saturday’s Currie Cup clash against the Free State Cheetahs in Bloemfontein.
Wing Jade Stiglingh’s excellent debut against Western Province last weekend was spoilt by an ankle injury that has put him out of action for six weeks, with the experienced Bjorn Basson shifting from fullback to replace the 23-year-old on the wing, where the Springbok has played most of his rugby.
That has forced Marais to turn to Beyers, a former Bulls player who left in 2014 to play for Bordeaux in France and Zebre in Italy.
Outside centre Dries Swanepoel has also strained a quad muscle in his thigh and will be replaced by Dan Kriel.
“Ulrich was here on a two-week trial because we were worried about fullback and centre cover if we got another injury. We are now in negotiations with him to lengthen his stay. Those will hopefully be completed in the next week,” high performance manager Xander Janse van Rensburg said.
“Dan Kriel has not had many opportunities, we thought he would be able to play against the Waratahs but then we lost against the Brumbies and couldn’t afford to rest guys. He’s practising well at the moment and now he gets the chance to show why he’s at the Bulls and where he is going. Guys like Franco Naude also want to play, so Dan must show what he can do this weekend and it will be a good challenge for him against Francois Venter,” Marais said.
The return of lock RG Snyman, one of the stars of the SuperRugby campaign, is the main feature of the new-look bench that the Blue Bulls will take to Bloemfontein.
The starting second row of Jason Jenkins and Marvin Orie were outstanding against Western Province and the presence of Snyman will just increase the physicality and ball-carrying ability of the Bulls.
Edgar Marutlulle, the former Lions and Southern Kings hooker, is in line to make his first appearance in the light blue jersey, while Martin Dreyer, the well-travelled former Hoerskool Wonderboom prop, replaces Nxoba Mxoli, who has a chest injury.
Joshua Stander is the reserve flyhalf for this weekend, replacing Tony Jantjies, while the highly-rated Duncan Matthews is the other new face on the bench.
Team: Ulrich Beyers, Bjorn Basson, Dan Kriel, Burger Odendaal, Jamba Ulengo, Tian Schoeman, Piet van Zyl, Arno Botha (c), Jannes Kirsten, Ruan Steenkamp, Marvin Orie, Jason Jenkins, Entienne Swanepoel, Jaco Visagie, Pierre Schoeman. Bench – Edgar Marutlulle, Martin Dreyer, RG Snyman, Hanro Liebenberg, Andre Warner, Joshua Stander, Duncan Matthews.